( I will keep updating this as I see posts.)
The senseless tragedy at the Sandy Hook Elementary School had the talking heads speculating about whether the murderer had an autism diagnosis.
Following a sketchy report that Connecticut school shooter Adam Lanza may have had autism or Asperger’s Syndrome, CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight booked a so-called expert named Dr. Xavier Amador to come on the air and slur people with autism. Dr. Amador, a media-friendly psychologist (a specialty that does not deal with autism) told Piers Morgan that “a symptom of autism” is that “something’s missing in the brain, a capacity for empathy, for social connection, which leaves the person suffering from this condition prone to serious depression and anxiety.”
No, autism is not a neurological condition that predisposes one to steal guns from one's parent and systematically murder the parent and children in the parent's a kindergarten classroom.
The following are quotation from responses from autistics and autistic allies on the public speculations that Adam Lanza was autistic and that autism contributed to his murderous rampage, with links to the full statements.
(Revised to put statements in categories for easier navigation)
Autistic Organizations Run By and For Autistics
From Ari Ne'eman of the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN)
(in part) " it is imperative that as we mourn the victims of this horrific tragedy that commentators and the media avoid drawing inappropriate and unfounded links between autism or other disabilities and violence. Autistic Americans and individuals with other disabilities are no more likely to commit violent crime than non-disabled people. In fact, people with disabilities of all kinds, including autism, are vastly more likely to be the victims of violent crime than the perpetrators."
From Michael John Carley of the Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership (GRASP)
(in part) "we ask that everyone please steer away from getting too caught up in the [autism] spectrum angle. Let us focus instead on mourning; lamenting through grief that such a terrible and tragic event befell us all on this awful, awful day. Let us focus on the families impacted, and care for them, so that someday far off maybe we can explain—though never justify—what happened today. Perhaps then we will finally force those responsible for our care to pass legislations that could have helped prevent this tragedy, or revoke the legislations that may have assisted it."
From Autism Women's Network, http://autismwomensnetwork.org/article/awn%E2%80%99s-appeal-media-sources-covering-newtown-ct
There is no evidence linking planned criminal violence to autism.
With the tragic events unfolding regarding the recent school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, we here at Autism Women’s Network send our heartfelt condolences to all the families. It is unimaginable what they are going through at this time. The loss of so many innocent lives is unspeakable and heartbreaking.
With a few media sources reporting that the shooter is on the autism spectrum, we want to make an appeal that reporters and news outlets tread carefully in this regard.
First, nothing has been confirmed about any possible diagnosis the shooter may have had.
Secondly, there is zero evidence linking planned crimes to autism. It cannot be stressed enough that autistic people, as well as all people with disabilities, are more likely to become victims of violence and crime rather than the perpetrators of such: Crime Victims with Developmental Disabilities.
Autism Rights Watch, reposted at Wrong Planet
The search for answers should not be a search for a scapegoat. Autism is no excuse or explanation to evil. Being “autistic”, “odd”,"awkward”, “camera shy”, a “nerd” and “uncomfortable with others” does not cause a person to become a mass murderer. Autistic persons are more likely to be victims, rather than perpetrators of violence. Autism Rights Watch urges the public and the media outlets not to stigmatize the autistic persons and their families. They already are facing segregation and prejudices on a daily basis.
From the Asperger's Association of New England (AANE)
....violence is not part of the Asperger or autism profile. People with Asperger syndrome or any other form of autism are far more likely to be the victims than the perpetrators of violence. Although it is impossible to conceive of a mass shooting as a mentally healthy act, the vast majority of mental health issues are not associated with violence.
Our overwhelming concern is for the families of the victims through their deep, enduring grief and devastation. We hope too that the conversation around Adam Lanza will be thoughtful and considerate of people who have Asperger syndrome or other forms of autism and their families. When myths and misunderstandings are perpetuated, nonviolent people with the same condition suffer. It is painful and frightening to feel associated by virtue of a diagnosis with someone who has committed such a horrific crime.
From Michael John Carley of the Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership (GRASP)
As many of you all no doubt saw, certain media outlets described autism and Asperger's Syndrome as signifying a great potential for violent behavior . . . even though studies show the exact opposite. While TV news gives a lot of charlatan clinicians airtime, it really seemed more the cause of an irresponsible rush to report than to demonize what we have. But suddenly our kids, most of whom are at a challenged social standing enough as it is, were being sent into schools where their peers had been informed on TV that being weird or socially aloof was something to be petrified of . . . and anti-bullying campaigns were set back a bit. Such "coverage" not only was inaccurate, but it was inaccurate (as we all know) and it prevented many of us all from trying to mourn with the families as best as we inadequately could.
From autistic individuals
From Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg, writing at Disability and Representation
"I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Autism is not a predisposing factor to premeditated violence. Autistic people are far, far more likely to be the victims of crime than its perpetrators.
And the same goes for mental illness. Most mentally ill people do not harm anyone and are at much greater risk of being the victims of violence."
From Paula C. Durbin-Westby at her blog
I would like to be able to grieve just as other parents all over America are doing,without the added baggage of the media's portrayal of Autistics as "dangerous loners" (or of "dangerous loners" as Autistics).
Emily Willingham on her 11 year old autistic son's response
From Shian (an autistic adult) at TOTKO in the UK http://hellototko.blogspot.com/2012/12/im-autistic-person-not-killer.html
He knows about the Dec. 14 shootings in Connecticut. When he learned about them, his first response was to turn away in the chair where he was sitting, drooping his head over the back. He stayed that way for many long minutes, quiet and still. When he turned around again, my child who rarely, rarely cries, had tears in his eyes. And then, his first urgent concern: That we break from homeschooling and go get his brother, our youngest son and in first grade, from school ... now. And as we drove to the school to pick up his brother, whom I badly wanted to see and hug and hear, my oldest, autistic son voiced what I'd already decided: "Let's not tell him what happened. That's not something he needs to know. It would make him too anxious and scared." Perspective-taking and empathy, you see.
Planned, social violence is not a feature of autism. Indeed, autistic people are far more likely to have violence done against them than to do violence to others. No one knows as of this writing what drove the Connecticut shooter to kill 20 children and 7 adults, point blank, although obvious candidates are rage, hate, a huge grudge against humanity, and some triggering event. But if he turns out to have been someone on the spectrum, I'd like to remind everyone that autism is not an explanatory factor in his actions. And that autistic people like my son are fully, fully capable of empathizing with those who were the target of them.
There are violent people all other the world committing mindless violent acts all the time. Naturally people want answers. So we pinpoint whatever we can and set it up for the blame. Gay? Muslim? Autistic? Stereotyping is a dangerous thing. I’m one of those people currently being stereotyped and I can tell you, hand on my heart, I am anything but a violent killer. In fact, if people knew anything about Autism, the connection between violence and Autism wouldn’t even occur them.
An autistic adult, The Pirate Hook (warning, some violent language) http://thepiratehook.tumblr.com/post/37961855288/im-going-to-sound-like-an-asshole-and-you-know#
If it turns out that he does have a form of autism, that does not mean that his sociopathy reflects on the rest of us. We are not violent people - the ratio of those of us with autism who would do something this disturbing to those of us who would not is very low. But to project that image of violence onto us is distorting the image of what we are.From Yes That Too, autistic adult, http://yesthattoo.blogspot.com/2012/12/in-response-to-connecticut.html
We can't actually talk about this continuous pinning of shootings on autism without talking about the stigma of disability, especially disabilities that are based in the brain. We can't actually talk about it without talking about the power differences between Autistic people and those who keep pinning mass murder on the way our brains are wired.
People keep saying that now is not the time to talk about this, but the instant the accusation has been made, the time to talk is now. The "no politics in a tragedy" rule is broken by the attack on my neurology, and I am allowed to defend myself, no matter how political, long-winded, or anything else you could call my defense. I am not the one derailing the conversation about a tragedy. I am the one answering an attack on the very core of who I am, and I am permitted that answer everywhere and everywhen such an attack happens.
Autism does not equate to violence. Sociopathy does not equate to violence. Lack of empathy does not equate to violence. Mental illnesses do not equate to violence. In fact, it leads to disproportionately being the victim, not the perpetrator, of abuses. Read that again. You blame brain differences that lead to being disproportionately victimized for leading people to commit crimes. That is backwards. That is the opposite of the right thing to do. That is what happens, every time. That needs to stop. Every one of us needs to answer this, every place we see it.
From Kassiane S., an autistic adult,
Yet another mass killing. Yet another tragedy. It is terrible. It is horrible. It is wrong.
People are scared.
People are looking for a group to be scared of.
Ladies, gentlemen, other august personages, I am the monster you are afraid of. For my entire life I have been. The reasoning changes, but I always come down on the wrong side of the line. I am always who the media, the talking heads, the papers, now the blogs, who the people you listen to tell me to fear.
And this makes being me terrifying. It makes being me unsafe.
From Troubador at Daily Kos
The shooter at Sandy Hook is being reported as having had Asperger's Syndrome - an autistic spectrum disorder that has only had a relatively small amount of cultural exposure, so if it turns out to be correct, this would be how most of America (and the world) is introduced to it: As a dangerous mental illness associated with psychotic acts of violence - which is about as far from the truth as one could possibly get. Speaking as someone who has Asperger's, this could add an additional (though by no means equivalent) layer of tragedy on top of an already fathomless horror if this monstrous act came to be how people with this disability are defined in the popular imagination. The discussion should rightly focus mainly on gun control, but I'm disturbed by the tenor of some of the media statements I've seen when the subject turns to mental health, and would hope it's not a sign of a potentially damaging misconception being created.Amy Gravino, autistic adult: http://minikitkatgirl.blogspot.com/2012/12/thoughts-on-sandy-hook-tragedy-and.html
......I am sitting here now, trying to make sense of the Connecticut shootings and the media's irresponsibility in characterizing the shooter as having Asperger's Syndrome, and despite Linda's glowing accolades...I am at a loss. As I wade through the jumble of disbelief, sadness, heartache, and a steadily growing sense of fear, there is only one thing that I know for certain:
I won't go back.
I won't go back to believing that I am the only person going through what I am going through.
I won't go back to being that voiceless, frightened girl who thought that she was nothing and would never be anything.
I won't go back to when words like autism and Asperger's Syndrome had no recognition, no meaning...no place in the world.
From Savannah Nicole Logsdon-Breakstone
From Karla Fisher, autistic adult, at Karla's ASD Page on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=399797193428068&set=a.272416929499429.64583.155369821204141&type=1&theater
I didn’t want to write about the shootings at all. I knew a number of people (who I’ll link to throughout this post) and organizations would be posting and writing, working to counter the inevitable stigma fail that would happen. I even was keeping to commenting on the links of people I care about, people who I know and who I want to have these sorts of discussions with. Then, it happened. I’ll leave the critiques of the post gawker promoted to others, but I feel obligated to make a comment about some of the assumptions it is based on and promotes.
That comment starts with a declaration: I was one of those scary kids.
Yes this is a civil rights issue and when I finally again find my strength, I will come back stronger and harder than before. For now I must lay low and focus on keeping my job and my life together within the context of this onslaught of discrimination and within the context of my own grieving.http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=400219743385813&set=a.272416929499429.64583.155369821204141&type=1
It is improved this time in so many ways... The autistic community and its allies are fighting a good fight. Most media sources are retracting and correcting their earlier words...
Alas the fallout from their mistakes are still out there. Stay diligent, stay strong and stay safe everyone.
From Zooey Roberts on Facebook
Some people are looking for a scapegoat to pin this horrible mass-murder on. This search for a scapegoat is widening the pain and making the world a more scary and dangerous place for people who are Autistic or have any other disability that makes them 'different.' This is hurtful to large groups of people who are not violent and are much more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of violence.
I don't feel comfortable wearing my Autism clothing in the current hostile environment.
From Steve Summer, autistic adult, on Facebook
Autism is Irrelevant to the Sandy Hook Elementary Shootings.
The media is looking for a scapegoat to hang the Sandy Hook tragedy on. Some have mentioned the killer may have had Aspergers. The truth is the vast majority of Autistic/Aspergers people are very inclined to follow rules and are not violent. Autistic people are far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of it.
From Landon Bryce
I still don't know if Adam Lanza had any kind of autism. The confirmation of a divorce mediator is better than that of classmates, but it's not conclusive. It's not surprising at all the popular media would take "autism" and run with it, that they would be careless about linking autism with violence, even though research does not tell us there is any link at all between autism and the kind of planned attack Lanza appears to be guilty of.
The strength and unity with which our community has risen up to refute those assertions and assert the humanity of autistic people is somewhat surprising.
From autism allies
Jess at Diary of a Mom
"Fear becomes truth. Misconceptions and misperceptions and outright lies become the popular zeitgeist. Autistic people who have struggled for so long to be understood — who have finally, painstakingly made strides in changing age-old misconceptions about who they are – who have begun to be seen by society in all of the glory of their complete human dimension are suddenly and terrifyingly thrown back at warp speed to the days of Boo Radley – to a time when it’s okay to channel society’s fear into that which is different – to point fingers at that difference and to connect it to evil – to blame it for incomprehensibly monstrous acts and in so doing to make them the target of all of our sadness and anger and desperate, aching fear that it could happen again.
Every time that we let this go, every time that those with a platform to make a change stand by in silence, fear grows.
Every time that good people say nothing, my daughter, my friends — ALL OF US — pay the price.
Please, use your voice in any way that you can.
Don’t allow one tragedy to give birth to another.
(in part) I don’t know what motivated Adam Lanza to do what he did. As I said several times yesterday, we call such acts “senseless,” because they literally defy logic, reason or explanation. What I do know is that Adam Lanza did not kill 27 people and himself because he was autistic. Autism is a neurologic disorder; it is not a mental illness. Even if autism were a mental illness, that does not mean that its diagnostic criteria include propensity for violence. Compare the DSM-IV criteria for a diagnosis of autism with those for a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder. Lacking an ability to express or engage social or emotional reciprocity is NOT the same as callous indifference to others’ feelings, a low threshold for discharge of aggression or the incapacity to experience guilt. I don’t know how any reasonably trained psychologist or psychiatrist could look at the diagnostic criteria for autism and even speculate that it caused or contributed to a violent outburst of truly epic proportions. Yet, we don’t hear the talking-head doctors speculating that Adam Lanza suffered from antisocial personality disorder. Why? Because that doesn’t have the same political sound-bite quality as “autism.”From Autismum, in Wales http://autismum.com/2012/12/15/ct-shootings/
I think it is worth reminding ourselves just how quick the media are to demonize autistic people. This piece by Kassiane S is a response to the very same speculation that abounded after the Aurora shootings. The fact that it has once again, become so horribly relevant is more than dismaying – it is terrifying.Sharon, mother to an autistic 11 year old http://www.blog.mamasturnnow.com/2012/12/15/words/
My heart is heavy too and I can understand the world’s need to explain how someone could do something like take the lives of so many innocent people. BUT when I hear the media start to make accusations such as the fact that the shooter has ASPERGERS as a reason why this tragedy happened… well it makes my blood boil. Maybe he did have Autism and maybe he was right-handed or had brown eyes. He was a bad egg and whether or not he had Autism is not a factor. Once again everything we all work so hard to do, to make the world see our Autistic love ones as PEOPLE first and who have empathy and compassion just like everyone else can be washed away in a second because some stupid comment! My son has Aspergers and he is not a monster. Sorry I know I am preaching to the choir but I am just so upset! When the media makes comments in their search for understanding ( and ratings less not forget that) before having all the real facts they often do more harm than good. People hear these WORDS and if they have no prior experience with say… Aspergers for example, well they take these words that when strung together create pictures and images and ideas and stereotypes as FACTS. And once those WORDS are out there… well it can take forever to erase the damage that they can do. And they create damage people. What we say, or perhaps what we DON’T Say matter!Jess at Diary of a Mom on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=10151160838256937&id=310066991936
It's inevitable. When the unthinkable happens, the talking heads search for explanations. They look for defining words. A diagnosis to blame. Something that will make sense of the senseless. The news outlets are now honing in on speculation that the shooter was on the spectrum. They are calling him 'odd' and using words like 'detached' - they are repeating the dangerous and desperately inaccurate myth that we've been talking about here for days - that autistic people lack empathy. They are searching in the wrong places for answers. And it's up to us, the community of autistic people and those who love them to set the record straight. When you hear a news outlet say something that you know is not true - when they imply that those on the autism spectrum are prone to violence (when in reality they are exponentially more likely to be the VICTIMS of violence), when you hear that they lack empathy, speak up. Every news outlet has contact info on their website. Use it. Talk to your friends, your neighbors, your family. There is nothing more dangerous than misplaced fear. We have a responsibility to each other - to our children.
By Miz KP, autism parent
The autism factor in this case has brought up a lot of debate and discussion. The autism factor angers me because it should not be a factor. We have not heard that the shooter, Adam Lanza, had autism from an official source. Even if we had, it should not be what we cling to as the reason for these heinous acts.
I am heartbroken for all the families who have lost loved ones. I am also defensive of autism. I am defensive because the inference that autism is the reason for these horrific killings is misleading and erroneous. Parents like me cringe every time a news reporter reports this as a known fact. Our children already live in a world where they are stigmatized. This is not helping.
From Kate Donovan at Ashely Miller's Freethought Blog http://freethoughtblogs.com/ashleymiller/2012/12/14/when-you-tie-shootings-to-mental-illness/
Adam Lanza’s mental health won’t be known. Not ever. There’s a lot of things we’d like him answer for–unclaimed Christmas presents and crying families and six year olds with cameras on them and reporters in their faces. We’d like to know why he did it. We want to know what was going on in that mind. There’s no explanation that will put this into perspective. Because, what kind of perspective could it be to understand what would drive you to kill children?
But I’m asking you–begging you, really, to not decide that Lanza had a mental illness.
I’m asking you not to make “being a good person” the standard for mentally healthy.
Do not try to rationalize this away with mental illness. Stop talking about how it could have been schizophrenia, stop saying he had to have mental health issues. You do not know.
You do not know his state of mind.
When you decide to armchair quarterback him, to stamp him with an “obvious” diagnosis, do you know what you are saying?"Here is a terrible thing. The only thing that could possibly cause someone to do such a terrible, tragic thing is to have This Disorder. Because only people with This Disorder could be so dangerous/awful/scary.
From The Autism Life (parent of an autistic), about a conversation with her child
“Ok, so if someone says something to you about this, what will you say and how will you say it?”
He shrugged his shoulders and said calmly, “Like this. I may be different, but I would never hurt anyone.”
I smiled, this is so simple for him. Why had I made it more complicated in my mind? I added, “Anything else?”
He said, with an air of finality to the conversation, “That’s just not what autism is.”
From Cara Liebowitz
I sit across the table, discussing the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings with people I love, people I respect, people who I trust. I know I'm treading on thin ice, but it's like a car wreck, I can't stop, can't look away. And then the ice cracks, oh god, here it comes, it always boils down to this. With smug conviction she says:
"We need to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill."
I take a deep breath, but can't stop my voice from rising. I stare straight at her as I challenge:
"So you're saying that I shouldn't be able to own a gun? I have mental illnesses."Whether or not I would actually want to own a gun is irrelevant; it's the principle of the thing. The response is instantaneous.
"Not you!" The implication is that I'm being ridiculous for drawing a logical conclusion. "Having depression or anxiety is different. I'm talking about psychopaths."
From Amy Caraballo
Autistics and individuals with other disabilities are no more likely to commit violent crime than non-disabled people. In fact, people with disabilities of all kinds, including autism, are much more likely to be the victims of violent crime. Attributing autism as a motive to this heinous crime is no more valid than attributing Adam Lanza's maleness, human-ess, or the fact that he lived in Connecticut. Though all of these things are true, they do not motivate one to murder.
Today I live in fear because of a rhetorical interpretation of the 2nd Amendment. I fear that I cannot safely go Christmas shopping without the possibility that a "legal" gun owner might go on a killing spree. Leaving our home increases the likely-hood my family will die by gunfire. I fear my family may end up collateral damage so that gun enthusiasts can continue to stockpile assault weapons.
But I mostly live in fear for my autistic child. A victim of abuse by the hands of "typical" people, my child, who values life above all, is now the target of a media frenzy.
From M. O'Callahan at Skeptoid
We have to make sense of these massacres by assuming someone or something makes the perpertrators less than human. It is easier, for some, to explain away Lanza’s actions by assigning him to a group that is already stigmatised than to really examine how and why this happened or to accept that human will is, actually, unfathomable. Were it to emerge that Lanza was indeed on the autistic spectrum it would tell us little to nothing about what made him carry out his atrocious acts. The dehumanising of people with disabilities and mental illness has a long and creepy history. Judging by the reaction both in the media and on social networks, it has a very healthy future.
Ellen Seidman (mother of a special-needs child)
...School shootings may be getting more common in modern-day America, but so is pointing the finger at autism as the cause—and it could hurt kids and adults with special needs like Max.
...."Asperger syndrome and other autism spectrum disorders are neurodevelopmental disorders, not personality disorders. People with Asperger's may be prone to behavior like aggressive outbursts and temper tantrums—but there is no proof they are prone to violence," says psychiatrist Mohammad Ghaziuddin, M.D., in his book Mental Health Aspects of Autism and Asperger Syndrome.
I sent this letter to every single person I could think of at our district, including the Superintendant and the School Board. Feel free to grab it and use it as your own, although I did borrow some of the language from the Autism Discussion Page on Facebook.
From Jim Walter at BloggingLily
Recently an article was written by a mother claiming to have a child similar to the Newtown shooter. The article doesn't flat out claim a formal diagnosis for her son, but instead "throws out some terms", one of which is "autism", and then describes behavior that, because of the reference, essentially implies that autistics are violent and disturbed. The post went viral. So of course every idiot with access to the internet now has at least SOME inkling in his head that autism is bad and leads to mass murder. A blogging friend of mine, Jillsmo, had the idea of writing to her school district and just sort of laying it on the line to clarify or do damage control. Some of this has been borrowed from Jillsmo's "template" and modified to better reflect my voice. I sent this to the administrators and teachers of my daughter's school district. It's more important than my usual schlock, you're free to use it or share it if you wish.
From Lucy Berrington at Psychology Today Blogs
In the wake of the harrowing deaths of twenty young children and seven adults, it is difficult to focus on anything else. But theautism community has had to. Early reports included speculation that the shooter had Asperger syndrome and an unknown psychiatric condition, raising fears of retaliation against those who are neurologically or psychiatrically different.
So it’s deeply heartening that many members of the autism community have posted eloquent responses, some of which are climbing high in the internet search charts, and major news outlets have begun to emphasize that Asperger’s and autism are not connected to planned violence. I can't help sort-of-hoping we retire any neurological or mental health diagnostic labels associated with this guy, for the sake of the millions of nonviolent people who also bear them. (Maybe that's an argument for being pleased with DSM-5 after all.)
From Mike Stanton (autism parent and advocate)
In their eagerness to explain the inexplicable sections of the media have focused on identifiable sub cultures and categories of people in society. see for example the lurid profile of Lanza in the Sun. None of this helps to explain why Adam Lanza acted the way he did. But it does increase the likelihood of bullying and violence against these disparate elements in society. This irresponsible behaviour may inadvertently add to the list of Lanza’s victims.
From Pucks and Puzzle Pieces, an autism parent
Our kids face enough challenges without people, fueled by wild media speculation, making assumptions about what their social awkwardness or quirky behaviors ultimately say about them. I surely hope that is not one of the lasting legacies of Newtown. Instead, I hope this can spark meaningful discussion about mental health and support services. It sounds like Lanza was well supported by his school system. Did he fall off “the cliff of 18?” We may never know what happened to cause him to commit such atrocities. But perhaps, among the many, many things in our society that need to be examined in the wake of this tragedy, the lack of support for adults in the special needs community can fall somewhere on the list.
From Mnosal49, an autism parent
You see Elisabeth; your angry words have hurt innocent children in a different way than a violent killer. You have killed with your words however. You have killed the self esteem of children in the autism community and their parents with your words. You have broken their hearts, saddened them and caused insecurity to surface. We do not need guns to kill because words kill people as well. It kills their hopes, dreams, and basically their drive to achieve and hope.
In reading your angry commentary and vulgarity aimed towards the autism community I perceived something else. An angry woman with a filthy mouth who is looking for someone to blame all the wrong doing in society on. You mentioned in your letter that society should stop making excuses for people on the autism spectrum and accept them for who they are. Perhaps you need to stop making excuses for your own anger, accept why you are lashing out at innocent children with autism, and find out why you feel the need to do so.
From Jillsmo at Yeah. Good Times.http://yeahgoodtimes.blogspot.com/2012/12/a-letter-to-elisabeth-ja.html
This screenshot has been making the Facebook rounds; I don't know where it originated from and I've done my best to remove the identifying information. Seeing this makes me want to start sobbing and run and hide from the world, but instead of lying on the floor in the fetal position, I thought I would try to calmly respond to this, in the hopes that Elisabeth might see it
From Ariane Zurcher at Emma's Hope Book
Once we’ve become convinced that something is worth fearing it is extremely difficult to reverse. When we speak of Autism using words and phrases that cause us to fear Autistic people, we are doing tremendous harm in the short and long-term to that population, harm that will be very difficult to reverse. Convincing people to feel fearful about something or someone is one of the easiest things to do. Convincing them, once they are convinced, that it was all a “false alarm” is extremely hard. So when those first news reports came out linking Aspergers with the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, it only took an unethical few to do tremendous damage to an entire population of people. Despite the fact that if you google “Aspergers and violence” the first dozen pages that come up are articles stating that there is absolutely NO connection between Aspergers and violence. And yet, my Autistic friends and I are terrified.
I am frightened for my Autistic daughter and for those I love and care about who are Autistic. I am frightened by what people will assume and how they will then treat those they assume are Autistic. I am frightened for my friends who are Autistic, will they be safe? Will a non autistic person hurt them, say cruel things to them, treat them differently because they fear “autism” and therefore “Autistics”? I am frightened even though the truth is neurotypical people are far more likely to commit acts of violence than Autistics. Watch these videos on Youtube ‘here‘ and ‘here‘. Videos showing Autistic and disabled people being tortured by others. Read these reports ‘here’, ‘here‘, ’here‘ and ‘here‘ about the systematic abuse of Autistic people, abuse that continues unabated all the time.
From autism organizations not run by autistics
The Autism Society of America on Facebook:
This morning, many national media outlets are reporting that the shooter was autistic. While as of yet, this has not been officially documents, many newspapers and television outlets are stating that the individual who shot the children and teachers was autistic. And, in such reports, there is an implication that autism might have had an impact on the person's mindset in leading to the shootings.
There is absolutely no evidence or any reliable research that suggests a linkage between autism and planned violence. To imply or suggest, as some are doing, that some linkage exists is wrong and harmful to the over 1.5 million law abiding, non-violent and wonderful individuals who live with autism each and every day. Stereotyping an entire group of individuals because of the actions of one is something is wrong and can't be accepted.
Elizabeth Feld, President, Autism Speaks
Our hearts go out to the families and town of Newtown, Connecticut in the wake of this heartbreaking event. Several media outlets are reporting that the shooter might have had an autism spectrum disorder. Some have also inaccurately reported that there is a linkage between autism and planned violence. We ask that blame not be placed on people with disabilities or disorders in the midst of these types of tragedies and that everyone keep the families of Newtown in their prayers.From the Autistic Global Initiative Committee and the Autism Research Institute http://myemail.constantcontact.com/ARI-Adult-Leadership-Committee-s-Statement-on-Newtown--CT.html?soid=1101659254324&aid=K7iUvjKFWRo
Our thoughts and prayers are with the community of Newtown, Connecticut today in the wake of yesterday's tragedy. Some public comments have drawn potentially inaccurate and stigmatizing conclusions about a link between the diagnosis and a propensity for violence and lack of empathy.
Autism is not a mental health disorder - it is a neurodevelopmental disorder. The autism community has long labored toward building understanding, awareness, and trust within communities throughout the United States and the world. As adults with autism living productive, peaceful lives, we urge the media and professionals who participate in speculative interviews about the motives of the accused shooter to refrain from misleading comments about autism and other neurodevelopmental disabilities. The eyes of the world are on this wrenching tragedy - with 1 in 88 now diagnosed, misinformation could easily trigger increased prejudice and misunderstanding. Let us all come together and mourn for the families and exercise the utmost care in discussions of how and why it occurred.
From Judy Endow on behalf of the Autism Research Institute and the Autistic Global Initiative
Due to the media speculation that Adam Lanza, the suspect in the recent Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, may have been affected with Asperger Syndrome, concern has developed on several fronts. Of immediate concern is fear that students returning to school who have been previously identified with having an Autism Spectrum Disorder may now be stigmatized, especially those who may exhibit meltdown behaviors in the educational setting.
The politically incorrect question on everybody’s mind is, “Are students with ASD dangerous when they have meltdowns and might this behavior lead to another Sandy Hook kind of incident at our school?”
Articles in main-stream media
Priscilla Gilman at the New York Times
....While autistic children can sometimes be aggressive, this is usually because of their frustration at being unable to express themselves verbally, or their extreme sensory sensitivities. Moreover, the form their aggression takes is typically harmful only to themselves. In the very rare cases where their aggression is externally directed, it does not take the form of systematic, meticulously planned, intentional acts of violence against a community.
And if study after study has definitively established that a person with autism is no more likely to be violent or engage in criminal behavior than a neurotypical person, it is just as clear that autistic people are far more likely to be the victims of bullying and emotional and physical abuse by parents and caregivers than other children. So there is a sad irony in making autism the agent or the cause rather than regarding it as the target of violence.
From Mari-Jane Williams at the Washington Post
Seidman, Durbin-Westby, Peete and Rosa all said the focus is, and should be, on the victims of this crime and their families. Their losses are unimaginable. The four women expressed mixed feelings about discussing autism in the aftermath of the tragedy. But they also felt that, given the coverage, they had no choice.
“We should be talking about these families, about better mental health care, about gun control, instead of having to do this social triage when that’s not the main concern,” Rosa said. “I can’t believe in the midst of this horrible tragedy, this is what we have to do.”
From Lisa Quinones-Fontanez at Parentinghttp://www.parents.com/blogs/to-the-max/2012/12/17/uncategorized/what-autism-parents-want-you-to-know-about-autism-and-violence/From Melinda Henneberger at the Washington Post http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/she-the-people/wp/2012/12/18/confusing-aspergers-with-mental-illness-and-mental-illness-with-evil/
Autism is neurological developmental disorder. Autism is not a mental illness, nor is it a personality disorder. There is no link between autism and premeditated violence. I am grateful to the journalists who are taking the time to clarify this.
I keep hearing on the news that individuals with autism lack empathy. As a mother to a young son with autism – I do not believe this to be true. It’s not empathy they lack, they lack the ability to read facial cues. So they may not understand when/if someone is sad, angry or hurt. Norrin understands these things, on the occasions he sees me crying – he’ll bring me a tissue to wipe my tears.Amy Harmon at the New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/18/health/fearing-a-stigma-for-people-with-autism.html
Struggling to understand, we persist in referring to desperately sick people as evil incarnate. ”Evil visited this community today,” said Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy. ”No set of laws can eliminate evil from the world,” President Obama told the grieving.
A well person doesn’t shoot a bunch of 6-year-olds, though, and while I believe in evil, from a Christian perspective, sin involves free will, which I’m just not sure someone who acted as Lanza did was in any shape to exercise. Saying so is seen as “excusing” such horrific acts, but calling illness by its modern name is important. We have so much hard work to do, and on multiple fronts, that we can’t afford to set off in the wrong century.Margaret Sullivan at the New York Times http://publiceditor.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/18/adam-lanza-aspergers-and-a-misleading-connection-with-violence/
Amid reports from neighbors and classmates that the gunman in the shooting rampage in, Newtown, Conn., had an autism variant known as Asperger syndrome, adults with the condition and parents of children with the diagnosis are fighting what they fear may be a growing impression that it is associated with premeditated violence.
...experts say there is no evidence that they are more likely than any other group to commit violent crimes.
“Aggression in autism spectrum disorders is almost never directed to people outside the family or immediate caregivers, is almost never planned, and almost never involves weapons,” said Dr. Catherine Lord, director of the Center for Autism and the Developing Brain at NewYork-Presbyterian hospital. “Each of these aspects of the current case is more common in other populations than autism.”From Ron Fournier at the National Journal http://www.nationaljournal.com/politics/don-t-stigmatize-asperger-s-syndrome-in-wake-of-newtown-massacre-20121216
- Did Adam Lanza, who authorities have identified as the gunman in Newtown, Conn., ever receive a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome?
- If so, would that be relevant?
- And has The Times been scrupulously responsible in the way it has reported on this aspect of Friday’s massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School?
In brief, here are my conclusions, based on my own reading and a number of interviews and conversations this week.
Tyler is an Aspie. He shrugged. “If you meet somebody with Asperger’s,” he said, “you’ve only met one person with Asperger’s.”
Tyler's point is worth us all noting: Don’t overgeneralize. Don’t stigmatize in a rush to explain inexplicable evil. Autism didn't cause this tragedy: Asperger’s is a blip on the far-reaching autism spectrum and no two cases are the same. Just as no “typical” person deserves to be tar-brushed with the evil acts of another, Aspies don’t deserve the bad press they’re getting.
From Bonnie Rochman at Time MagazineAmid unconfirmed media reports that alleged gunman Adam Lanza, 20, had Asperger’s, a high-functioning form of autism marked by social awkwardness, autism experts are mobilizing to combat misconceptions about the condition. Parents are reaching out to school principals to ensure that students with autism aren’t being taunted. Advocates have issued statements disavowing any link between autism and premeditated aggression. And children — more often than not the siblings of kids who have autism — are standing up for others.
Brenda Rothman at the Huffington PostJessica Jaglois at NBC12 http://www.nbc12.com/story/20386590/woman-with-aspergers-defends-the-condition
But the Connecticut tragedy happened at an elementary school, like the one we went to, like the one we send our children to, a place we would all feel safe. But we still must find a difference because feeling vulnerable is too dangerous. So we look to the shooter. When we hear he was autistic, we think, "Ah, so that's the problem."
Except that's not the problem. Autism does not create killers.
When my son was diagnosed with autism, I didn't know any autistic persons. I thought autism was a permanent lack of connection, a brain dysfunction that meant my child would never feel affection for me or for anyone else. I was so wrong. Autism is not a lack of connection. It is not a lack of affection or emotion. It's a communication disorder, sensory issues, a different schedule of development. Autistic persons have the same emotions, the same feelings of love and the same fears.
Paula Durbin-Westby knows what it's like to live with Asperger's. She was diagnosed in her late 40's. Since then, she's worked as an autism advocate. Since Friday's tragedy, she's had her work cut out for her.
"I don't think there's ever been this stereotype that we would go out and be mass murderers, which is very inaccurate," said Durbin-Westby.
She says, the misinformation surrounding Asperger's is impacting children. Parents are writing from across the country her telling her about tales of bullying.